My Two Cents

I am fortunate to work for a company that realizes the value of training their employees and supports the belief by providing opportunities to learn about work, home and life related issues. Part of the training program includes a speaker series that features business, industry and community leaders speaking on a variety of topics. Yesterday, I sat in on a session with, John Mozeliak, the General Manager of Major League Baseball's St. Louis Cardinals.

Mr. Mozeliak was very cordial and I was somewhat amazed at how down-to-earth he seem while holding a position that only 29 other people have in the whole world but every red-blooded, American boy, man or person, would give up their left arm for. I was also surprised at his relative youth and felt that I was listening to someone in my generation speaking as opposed to my Dad's generation-- possibly another indicator that I am getting old.

It was a very interesting and informative discussion for me, being a baseball fan, but I didn't see anyone in the room nodding off so I suppose even those that have indifferent feelings toward the sport enjoyed it to some degree. He went on for 20 minutes or so about how he was a salesperson and a manager, and tried to show some parallels between what he does and what we do-- a point that I had to differ with, to some degree, as he mentioned how his annual payroll budget was in the hundreds of millions of dollars and his performance reviews are daily and conducted by the national media.

Mr. Mozeliak, then impressed me by opening the floor for questions and answering in a straight-forward and casual manner. He handled some pretty tough questions from a few dedicated fans of our beloved Cards that had recently gone on an ugly losing streak and had all but been eliminated from the playoffs. I guess that he is used to getting a lot tougher questions, from a lot more difficult people, in a lot more hostile environments than from the 20 or so of us in the room.

I asked him if was still a fan of the game and if it was as fun as he thought it would be when he was a kid, now that it is, first and foremost, a business to him now. He gave me a good, solid answer and gave us an example of how it is sometimes hard to balance the two with a funny story about Ron Vallone. I wish I got a chance to ask him about the struggling economy and how he thought it was going to impact baseball.

I am no financial analyst or CPA, so much of the stuff that is going on right now is over my head, but even the average Cub Fan can tell you that if Americans start to go through some rough times, financially, the entertainment dollar is the first thing that gets eliminated from the family budget. This not only means sports, but movies, concerts, vacations and then things like cable or satellite TV, club memberships and video games.

It's just common sense that you get rid of the things that you can live without before the necessities like food and shelter and the Internet. I often whine in this blog that the younger generations have gotten lazy because things have become too easy and they haven't had to go through many challenges in their lifetime, but I think this time is different. We are in store for a very difficult situation in this country's economy-- the most difficult that we have seen in a long time, if not our lifetimes.

Did you ever ask, in High School or College, "Why do I have to learn History? How is this going to help me in the real world?" and had someone answer you with, "Those who do not learn from history, are bound to repeat it..." Maybe that's part of the problem. There are very few people left that remember what led up to the Great Depression and no one else did their studies.

I don't believe anyone is "putting partisan politics aside". I do think they want to solve this "grave economic crisis" but I think both the Republicans and the Democrats have their own agendas-- for goodness sake, people, we are 40-days away from the Presidential Election! (I have to take some time to write about the "terrorism-conspiracy-theory" in the next few weeks.) I am confident that we are going to make it through the next few years and eventually, this too, will all be history that we can forget, but we are probably going to experience some hard times along the way.

I think the politicians can be on the right track as long as they use a little common sense. I understand the need to use tax-payers money for a bailout of financial institutions, but it is ridiculous to think the dudes with the golden parachutes would get one dime of my hard earned dough-- they may have to dump the Summer Home, but Winter is coming anyway. 

I also have a concern with comments about how we can't let working-families lose their homes to foreclosure. Let's face it-- for the past ten or so years we have been giving outrageous mortgages to individuals who "as long as everything went as planned and the stars aligned and we didn't hit any bumps in the road for the next say... 30 years, may-- let me emphasize-- may be able to afford their dream home..." Real life doesn't work like that!

I told my 20-year old nephew this only the other day, "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst," when we were discussing his grand plan to move out of his parents' place and into a rental. I was being sincere with the advise but I really doubt that he will follow it. He's got big ideas and can't have "the Man" holding him back. I really hope he is successful, but I bet he wont even begin to think of what he is going to do if he isn't.

Lack of common sense, overconfidence in ourselves and others, laziness, greed and fear seems to be the recipe for the soup that we've gotten ourselves into now and it is going to take a little time and a bunch of people blowing before it cools down enough for us to eat. OK, I'll admit that analogy was beyond stupid but I got on a roll and couldn't stop.

I don't know, for I am not in charge of a multi-million dollar budget or thousands of families' financial security-- though I feel a little sorry for those who are-- I am, merely, a simple artist, trying to make a buck or two and, possibly, make someone smile, or think, or feel good about themselves or someone else for a brief moment (so buy a T-shirt).

In the mean time I will continue to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I suggest that you do the same.


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